One week before the start of the 2019 NFL season, Bleacher Report brings you the latest news and notes from the fantasy world to prepare you for your upcoming draft.
Melvin Gordon Ending Holdout?
Fantasy players who have been anxiously anticipating Melvin Gordon returning to the Los Angeles Chargers could be in for good news.
ESPN's Eric D. Williams included Gordon on his 53-man roster projection for the Chargers, prompting this exchange with Paddy Power's Andrew Cunneen:
Adding fuel to the fire was Gordon and Chargers play-by-play announcer Matt Smith writing this on Twitter in response to a fan saying he waited until the sixth round to draft the Los Angeles star:
Gordon has been holding out for a new contract, but there's no indication any agreement with the Chargers is close. Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported last month the two sides were $2-3 million apart in average annual salary.
If Gordon does return to the Chargers in time for the regular season, there's the question of how long it will take him to be ready for game action.
Gordon will still be one of the most valuable fantasy running backs, even if he's forced to sit out one or two games. The 26-year-old had 1,375 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns in just 12 games last season.
Austin Ekeler has had a strong preseason with 117 total yards on 18 touches. The third-year running back should remain on your fantasy radar at least through Week 1.
Justice Hill Impressing Ravens
There are no shortage of running backs on the Baltimore Ravens, but rookie Justice Hill appears to be making a strong impression on the coaching staff.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Hill has shown the ability to create big plays in any scheme they have designed:
Sigmund Bloom @SigmundBloom
“I don’t think he’s the guy that you just go...Watch for the toss,’” Roman said. “I think he has shown that he can run a variety of run schemes – inside, outside...you love it when, if something breaks down...he can fix it on the fly. … We’re all really excited about Justice.” https://t.co/6zg3rQxWAM
Running the ball will likely be a major part of Baltimore's offense in 2019. The team led the NFL in carries last season (547). The Seattle Seahawks were the only other team that had at least 500 rushing attempts.
Hill is fighting an uphill battle for touches in the regular season. He's listed as a fourth-stringer on the Ravens' depth chart, behind Mark Ingram II, Brandon Carr and Justin Bethel.
Three players had at least 100 carries for the Ravens last season, led by quarterback Lamar Jackson's 147. Gus Edwards (137) and Alex Collins (114) were the others.
A new stable of running backs opens things up, but Ingram seems likely to get the bulk of the work. Hill has been used extensively in preseason with 27 carries and four receptions. He's only averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
The most tantalizing aspect of Hill's game is speed. The former Big 12 Freshman of the Year led all running backs with a time of 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Jackson is still developing as a passer, making running the ball an essential part of Baltimore's success in 2019. Roman loves running the ball from his history with the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills.
Since Hill already has Roman's trust in creating plays when they break down, he's got the potential to be a deep fantasy sleeper in your league. He's only owned in 15 percent of Yahoo leagues with an average draft position of 158.
Jerick McKinnon's Extended Absence
There were already red flags around Jerick McKinnon coming off a torn ACL, but the news keeps getting worse for the 49ers running back:
San Francisco is prepared to handle an extended absence from McKinnon. The signing of Tevin Coleman in the offseason reunited him with Kyle Shanahan, who was his offensive coordinator for two seasons from 2015-16 with the Atlanta Falcons.
The 2016 season was the best of Coleman's career. He averaged 6.3 yards per touch and had 11 touchdowns on 149 touches.
Matt Breida had a breakout 2018 campaign with 1,075 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in 14 games.
Based on average draft position, fantasy players seem to believe Coleman (No. 54) will be San Francisco's primary running back; Breida is sliding all the way down to No. 108.
Even if Coleman splits carries with Breida or serves as the No. 2 running back, he's still going to produce starting-caliber numbers for fantasy players.
Per CBS Sports' Heath Cummings, Coleman has finishing among the top-24 running backs in each of the past three seasons despite never having more than 199 touches.
Coleman's history with Shanahan makes it likely he will end up getting the bulk of the opportunities for San Francisco. Breida is also worth grabbing in the later rounds, but Coleman is the guy you want as an RB2 to start the season.
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Fantasy info via FantasyPros.com.